It has become common to hear about identity theft practically every day. In the last decade, cases of identity theft have been all over the news. With such wide spread media coverage and new technologies that aid in id theft protection, you would think that this type of crime should be less prevalent. But the truth is, cases of identity theft are still on the rise.
Identity Theft Statistics
The latest statistics from Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Study reported that a new identity fraud victim was hit every two seconds in America in 2013, with the number of victims climbing to 13.1 million over the year. This is an uptick of more than 500,000 victims since 2012. Javelin’s report was conducted for the past 11 years and drew on responses from 5,634 consumers to identify the impacts of fraud nationwide.
While the number of victims increased year over year, the amount of defrauded money decreased by $3 billion to $18 billion compared to 2012. “In 2012, we had a big spike in new fraud with a high average fraud amount,” said Al Pascual of Javelin Strategy & Research, “but in 2013, that was pushed down with criminals shifting into existing card fraud.” He also gave credit to the progression in the financial industry, because of the improvements of detecting new instances of fraud there was a noticeable drop in compromised funds as criminals have had a harder time creating new fraudulent accounts.
Identity Theft Growing and Becoming More Costly to Victims
According to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Justice, credit card data theft skyrocketed and increased 50% from 2005 to 2010. An estimated 16.6 million people, representing 7 percent of all persons age 16 or older in the United States, experienced at least one incident of identity theft in 2012. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released an eye-opening report finding identity theft cost Americans $10 billion more last year than all other property crimes measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey. Losses for household motor vehicle theft, burglary, and property theft totaled $14 billion whereas identity theft cost Americans a staggering $24.7 billion in 2012.
The BJS’s also reports the most common way victims discovered the identity theft in 2012 was when a financial institution contacted them about suspicious activity on an account. About 2 out of 3 victims did not know how the offender obtained their information, and 9 out of 10 did not know anything about the identity of the offender. People whose names were used to open new accounts were more likely to experience financial hardship, emotional distress, and even problems with their relationships, than people whose existing accounts were manipulated. In addition, Americans who were in households making $75,000 or more were more likely to experience identity theft than lower-income households.
Penalties for ID Theft Conviction
The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act has been in place for more than 7 years. This law passed in July 2006 increases existing penalties for the crime of identity theft, establishing “aggravated identity theft” as a criminal offense, defined as using stolen identity to commit a crime. This adds two to five years of prison time to the penalties depending if aid and assistance was given to terrorists or terrorism groups.
In the last 10 years, transactions over the internet continued to be one of the top cases of identity theft. College students have become particularly vulnerable due to the use of unsecured wireless networks. ID theft isn’t limited to the internet however. A large number of cases come from people responding to fraudulent phone solicitations and mail fraud. Theft of personal information from company databases and POS devices have also lead to an increase in identity theft fraud, such as the ones from Target and Neiman Marcus.
The best option to shield yourself from identity theft is to use a specialized identity theft protection solution with comprehensive coverage and monitoring.